Republic native receives French award for service

The front page of Monday’s edition of the Journal featured an article about 97-year-old Republic native Howard Keskitalo becoming a Knight in the French Legion of Honor during a ceremony in September.

The medal, which was initiated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is the highest award presented to non-French citizens in recognition of military, cultural, scientific or social contributions in France, was presented by Deputy Consul General of France Frederic Chole at Veterans of Foreign Wars post 1197 in Batavia, Illinois.

During the ceremony, Chole said Keskitalo’s “unfailing determination and bravery” restored hope to the citizens of France, but also “changed the course of history for the entire world.”

As a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Keskitalo served as a navigator on a B-17, participating in four major campaigns — Air Offensive Europe, Normandy, Northern France and the Rhineland as well as 35 tactical missions during the war.

“I had no doubt I was going to live through the whole thing,” Keskitalo said of his military service during a September interview. “It’s just my nature, I don’t know if it’s courage or if I was just young and dumb.”

When it comes to our veterans, honoring their selfless duty and bravery is never too late. We at the Journal would like to offer our congratulations to Keskitalo for receiving the award — but above that, we would like to offer our deepest thanks for your service and sacrifice to this country.

As the article implied — Mr. Keskitalo was not only brave, but humble as well.

“They called us the greatest generation,” Howard once told his brother Hank. “But Ma and Pa were the greatest generation. Who could have handled eight kids, a farm and with virtually no assistance?”

With a character like that — we would like to humbly disagree, Mr. Keskitalo. Yours was the greatest generation.